The End with Boston is Near for Amir Johnson

Jan 20, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Celtics forward Amir Johnson (90) is honoured during a break in the first quarter in a game against the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 20, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Celtics forward Amir Johnson (90) is honoured during a break in the first quarter in a game against the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports /

Amir Johnson is currently the highest paid player on the Boston Celtics, but that may not be the case for much longer

The Boston Celtics are 33-25 following their loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. They have now lost two of their first three games following the all-star break and if the struggles continue for much longer, questions will arise. A very real question already revolves around Amir Johnson‘s future with the Boston Celtics.

Johnson is making a team-high $12 million this season, and set to make that amount next season as well. However, Johnson has a team option next season, which the Celtics may not activate.

While Johnson has had a decent season this year, he has been nothing less than overpaid. In 23.1 minutes per game this season, Johnson has averages of 7.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, and one block in 22.9 minutes per game. He has been a solid rotational player for the Celtics this season, but not worth his contract.

With the emergence of Tyler Zeller, Johnson has seen his playing time decrease. It suggests that he is starting to fall out of the rotation, although he has continued to start for Boston. That may be mostly because Brad Stevens doesn’t want to constantly change his starting lineup in order to keep a set rotation. Johnson has started in 52 of his 55 games played this season, bringing solid rebounding and defense to the team. It’s pretty clear now though that Johnson is a reserve just starting games.

Per 36 minutes, Johnson is averaging 11.4 points and 9.6 rebounds. Obviously Johnson has not seen the minutes to produce numbers like that, but it shows that he has been efficient when given the opportunity this season. The real question then becomes, is it worth it to pay him $12 million if he won’t see enough playing time?

The answer is, probably not. Since the start of February, Johnson has averaged a mere 17.8 minutes per game and has only eclipsed 20 minutes in two games. What is even more surprising is, despite the injury to Kelly Olynyk, Johnson has only seen 17, 18, and 15 minutes in each of the first three games following the all-star break. Even in their overtime win against the Los Angeles Clippers, Johnson only saw 13 minutes as he recorded 0 points and 0 rebounds.

Offensively, Johnson is not as talented as Kelly Olynyk, or even Jared Sullinger, but he isn’t a liability either. He shoots a very good 70.4 percent from inside of three feet, where 52.3 percent of his shots come from. He also shoots 50.5 percent from 3-10 feet away, showing off his mid-range game. Johnson acts as the inside presence of the team at the moment, but there’s no doubt Boston wishes he was a little bigger.

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Despite his good shooting percentages, he doesn’t have a big role on offense, which is the reason for the low scoring. The lack of minutes also doesn’t allow him to grab enough rebounds to look good on the stat sheet. Johnson is a very good defensive player, but he’s not the quickest big man in the world, to put it nicely, and at 6’9″ he is unable to play the center position.

Plus, Jordan Mickey has been sensational in the D-League this season and is waiting for his shot in the NBA with the Celtics. Mickey may not see significant playing time this season, but the departure of Johnson after the season would open up an opportunity.

Amir Johnson has consistently seen around 23 minutes per game the entire season, until now. He shouldn’t fall out of the rotation completely, like David Lee did, but the sudden drop of minutes is eye-opening. It’s also a little odd considering how well he was playing for most of the season.

The 10-year veteran is far from retirement, especially at only 28 years old. However, his size makes him incapable of playing the center position, which is a huge downside. He also doesn’t fit the fast-paced tempo that Boston likes to play, and his defensive specialist replacement has been the best player in the D-League this season.

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If Johnson were to come back to Boston on a smaller contract then I would be all for it, as much of Boston would. He gives solid, efficient effort and results but needs more minutes to shine. Johnson is a player who gets better as the game goes on and can’t play a couple of minutes here and there, he needs a long stretch of minutes. With all that being said, he should be far from the highest paid player on the team, and not accepting his option could help Boston land a top-tier free agent this upcoming off-season.